Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mormon and Gay

I've been reading people's responses to the new "Mormon and Gay" website produced by the LDS Church. There's a way in which I haven't really had the luxury of thinking about the new web site in terms of my own personal feelings about it. In my role as president of Affirmation, my first reaction to the web site was all about the impact I thought the web site would have on the community I am trying to serve (we're still dealing with a lot of trauma from the events of the past year), and whether or not the web site could advance a profitable dialog between LGBT people and straight/cis- people in the LDS Church (I think it can, though that dialog will still require a lot of work on the part of everybody, and a lot of the LGBT folks are really tired and hurting).

It just so happened that the web site came out in the midst of a very tender moment in my life, the day after my husband went through an intense day of surgery to receive a kidney transplant. Through that whole process I was very aware of his (of our) mortality, and just how extremely fragile life is and how infinitely precious Goran is to me, and the way in which over the course of nearly 25 years of life together I don't even really know any more how to separate "me" from him, from us. One of the most sacred moments in my life has now become the moment he finally started to come out of the anesthesia to a state of full consciousness.

I had been there by his side for several hours holding his hand, and even though he couldn't open his eyes, when he first realized it was me there, he started to sob. He just sobbed! And then hours later when he could finally speak, he pulled me up close to him, and he whispered, "You've always been here for me!" I replied, "Yes. I love you." Suddenly he began sobbing again. He told me he didn't feel worthy of my love. I replied that I didn't feel worthy either. We both forgave each other and then wept together, enveloped by the most incredible warmth and peace, absolutely nothing hidden or held back, absolutely nothing to come between us, and I felt like I had never experienced a more pure emotion than the total, unconditional love we expressed for one another in that moment. And I realized that love is so powerful precisely because of how it forgives, and how it teaches us our worthiness. And I felt God present there, smiling, saying: "See! You've finally understood what it is to be one with somebody!" It was this incredible, sacred moment.

The Church is where I learned the Gospel. And the Gospel taught me about grace, it taught me about repentance, it taught me about love, personified in Christ. But I didn't really fully understand these things until I had Goran as my teacher. And I couldn't be in this path or have Goran as my travel companion if it hadn't been for God, lighting the way, teaching me, protecting me, prompting me, comforting me. And then teaching, protecting, prompting and comforting us. Blessing us.

So I don't know what to make of certain teachings that are presented as absolute and unchangeable by Church leaders right now. It seems to me that there is a larger truth (of which the Church's doctrine on marriage is a subset) that encompasses not just my personal experience but the experience of countless other LGBT folks and the love that we might be privileged to share with a significant other, whether that other is of the same or a different sex. And I hope and pray that the Church's truth will some day be large enough to encompass that whole truth.

For me, that's not different than any other aspect of the Gospel as we currently have it, which, if I understand the project of the Restoration writ large, is a project of enabling us to progressively encompass ever and ever larger truths, until we're capable of comprehending everything God comprehends. We're not there yet. So I'm willing to walk with the Church for as far as it will let me, and hope we can all get there together. I'm still very imperfect, and I need the Church to continue to help me in the process of perfecting myself.

I think the new web site is trying to expand the boundaries of what people are willing to encounter and think about, and so I enthusiastically support it and embrace it. I won't condemn it for its shortcomings. I love the movement in the web site which is for the most part in the direction of listening. I hope we'll all find the grace both to tell our truths and to listen, and if the web site helps us do that then it's served its purpose.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Rude Awakenings

I've been reading Carol Lynn Pearson's The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy. Required reading for Mormons, in my humble opinion. I am not finished with it yet, but it is a rich and thought-provoking book and I feel impelled to share some thoughts in response to what I've read so far.

 My understanding of the sealing ordinance has always been conditioned by the principles taught in Doctrine & Covenants, section 121. That section says that a man who abuses his priesthood has no priesthood. Amen to it.

 So I have always understood that a man who abuses his wife in any way, whether it be verbal, emotional, or physical; whether it be through infidelity or neglect; has automatically annulled his sealing to that woman. The notion that a man who would do such things could be sealed to his wife in any way in the next life, just because of an ordinance, is a vile doctrine, a doctrine of devils.

If I got that from anybody, it was from my dad. My mother passed away last November. My dad loved my mother with great faithfulness and tenderness. My dad knows that death is not the end, and that he can be reunited with the great love of his life once he too crosses over the veil. His only fear since her death has been that he might in any way be unable to be reunited with her because he was unworthy of her.

My dad taught me to see a temple sealing like any other covenant. It is only in force as long as we keep up our end of it. And to be honest I cannot find anything in scripture to contradict that idea. There is much in scripture to contradict the contrary notion, that a sealing could be in force in the next life regardless of the choices we make in this life.

I have always known that it was very difficult to get a sealing annulled. I always believed this to be a reflection of Jesus' teaching about divorce, namely that what God has united man cannot put asunder. The way I worked this out in my mind was that any couple that becomes sealed is essentially committing before God and for eternity to make this particular relationship work. It's one reason that I, as I came to a self-understanding of myself as gay, came to recognize that this was not for me with a woman.

What I find appalling is the notion that a man could divorce his wife for any reason, including in situations where he had been abusive or unfaithful, and then be sealed to another woman, and believe that he will own both in the next life. Regardless of what the church practices or preaches in this regard, I believe that a man who believes such a thing is in for a rude awakening on That Great Morn.

And as far as I am concerned, any woman who is treated in such a manner has been released from her vows to that man, and is free to find someone worthy of her and, if she so desires, should be able to be sealed to that someone worthy. How could anything else comport with the justice and the goodness of God?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Thoughts About Orlando

It's been a long time since I've posted here, partly because I've been so busy in my current role as president of Affirmation, and also partly because all of my writing energy has been going into and other venues. This recent assault, however, has raised some issues that I need to process a bit, and this seems the best place to do it.

So, first of all, how do we process the fact that the person who carried out this crime was a Muslim?

A Wikipedia article on "LGBT in Islam" ( says that: "The traditional schools of Islamic law based on Quranic verses and hadithat consider homosexual acts a punishable crime and a sin," and that "in Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen, homosexual activity carries the death penalty."

A right wing group called "The United West" released this video of a Muslim cleric in Orlando justifying the death penalty for homosexuals:

The story was also covered on ABC:

To say this is deeply upsetting to me is the understatement of the year. Though I don't know how to contextualize Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar. Is he condemned as an extremist by the majority of Muslims? (He seems to see himself as mainstream.)

Pink News offered a ray of hope in this report that a prominent Saudi Muslim cleric is making the case that the death penalty should not be applied to homosexuals:

Neither Dr. Al-Ouda's reasoning (homosexuals are sinners and will be condemned by Allah in the next life) nor the context (which very much suggests that this cleric is the exception that proves the rule) are super reassuring. Though I've gotten used to living with people who think I'm going to hell. I can live with them so long as they're not eager to subject me to the death penalty.

Right-wing denunciations of "Muslim violence" don't reassure me either. They don't make me feel safe. For one thing, I've seen in social media a number of belligerent assertions that the fact that Omar Mateen attacked an LGBT bar was irrelevant. The only thing that is important to know about this attack, they assert, is that he was an I.S. supporter attacking Americans.

Do you understand, I want to ask these folks, that one reason I.S. hates you so much is because you tolerate us. Do you not get that you cannot disentangle virulent homophobia from these folks' anti-American motives? Or is it that you're not inclined to look at their homophobia because you're so compromised by it yourselves that you're not, after all, really committed to an America that is safe for LGBT folks in any event? Right now I'm more nervous about you guys than I am about them, because you have far more power to hurt me.

Some reports describe the perpetrator, Omar Mateen, as mentally or emotionally unstable:

Now, recent reports suggest that he was actually gay and internally conflicted about being gay:

And there, I think, is the rub.

This is the reason why Muslim homophobia -- why, in fact, any homophobia, be it Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or Mormon -- is deeply disturbing. It is not necessarily that it will inspire adherents of a particular religion to murder LGBT people. (Though, apparently, it can do that.) It is that it so profoundly distorts our view of ourselves as LGBT people to the point of this kind of insanity.

I knew something was wrong the first time I read Mateen's father's report that his son had seen two men kiss in public before the shooting and that it made him "very angry." I knew that that kind of anger, the kind that would inspire him to go on this kind of a murderous rampage, comes from somewhere far deeper and more terrifying than run of the mill hatred.

Mateen's motive, I realized, was not to kill gays, but to kill the gay within himself. Mateen pulled the trigger, again and again and again. But it was a homophobic culture (that included cultural elements from his father's Afghani Muslim culture) that aimed the gun.